Dear friends and readers, I have been overwhelmed by the flood of very kind messages following the closure of WYSIWYGPurple, and I am very grateful for all the kind words.
Though the blog remains dead, I have replaced it with a portfolio using Adobe’s Portfolio tool. This is more of a collection of galleries with the occasional unscheduled essay from me. I expect the galleries will be updated fairly regularly so for those of you who were so kind in your praise of my images, there is still access to what I hope is some of my best and favourite work.
My blog has a heritage dating back to February 1994. Its original purpose was to provide a summary of New Zealand news to expatriates before newspapers realised that there was a market for such a service. WYSIWYG News was published more or less weekly from 1993. from 1995 I added the “purple prose” lead-in sections which were a page or so of my thoughts and observations. In its glory days it was distributed by various channels and had approximately 4,500 subscribers. By 2010 it had become essentially redundant and it ceased to exist as a news aggregation service. In 2012 I resuscitated it as a personal indulgence that allowed me to share my love of photography with some random purple-prose editorializing.
It was kindly received by many of you, but recent statistics on the WordPress site tell me that just 10 people a week still look in. It is clear that its time has passed and this is the very last post under this banner. I shall remain active in a less structured way in the usual social media channels.
To all the friends I have made, and to all who have accompanied me on this very long journey, my warmest thanks for the affirmation and support.
I can still be contacted on Facebook as facebook.com/brian.harmer, or on Instagram @brian.harmer or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org Stay well and safe, and make contact if you pass through Wellington.
Yesterday was our autumnal equinox. It is obvious therefore that I can no longer cling to the idea that we still have not used all of our share of summer. That doesn’t stop me resenting the comparatively poor quality of this year’s allocation. We had some really good days. My grievance is that there were far too few of them.
As I recorded last week, in the aftermath of the terrorism in Christchurch, these have been dark days for our country. Most of us are justifiably proud of the leadership displayed by our young prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. We have been groping our way to how best to respond to these unprecedented circumstances. Somehow, this particular morning offered an analogy to what we were experiencing … a very dark dawn with a glimmer of light for the day ahead.
Most cities and towns have held some kind of memorial observance. Sorrow for the loss and support for the survivors has been the main thrust. Mary and I joined our son and daughter-in-law and our grandchildren at the memorial vigil in Wellington. It had been planned to be held in the civic square, but the numbers who indicated their intention to attend caused the civic leaders to switch the venue to the Basin Reserve, our major cricket stadium. Approximately 11,000 Wellingtonians were there. I was proud of our city and the respectful way in which they conducted themselves.
My chosen point for participation at the vigil locked me in for a while when the ceremonies were over. As the crowds moved out slowly, I spotted the reflections in the tuba being carried by a member of Orchestra Wellington which had provided beautiful music.
Later in the week, I was awake earlier than usual for some reason, and enjoyed a splendid rosy dawn from my bedroom window.
Later in the day I heard the heavy sound of a BK117 helicopter circling in the valley below me. I am not sure precisely where it landed but I guess it was on some mission of mercy, perhaps filling in for the similar helicopter normally operated by the Life Flight Trust in Wellington. After a period in which I could hear but not see it, it re-emerged into contrast with the hazy Eastern hills.
Then we had one of those days that just demanded a road trip. From Wellington, that can only mean up SH1 through Otaki or over the hill through Featherston into the Wairarapa. I am most likely to choose the latter if I suspect that the conditions are calm on Lake Wairarapa. They were. How can I not love this area? Those are the Rimutaka ranges in the background and Wellington is on the other side.
I spent the day circumnavigating the lake, pausing at Lake Ferry for the lunch that Mary had kindly packed for me. As the afternoon wore on, and I came up the Western Lake road, I was astonished that despite the overcast that had developed, the lake was still just magical in its stillness.
This week, Wellington was forced to close its central library as an engineering report indicates it needs work to bring it up to standard for earthquake resistance. That reminded me of the church of St Mary of the Angels on Boulcott St in the city. It too needed significant remediation to make it safe. It’s a place I often visit (well, I am a Catholic) for a few moments of meditation. Its architect, Frederick de Jersey Clere may not have been abreast of current seismic standards, but he had a great eye for elegant form.
As I left the church and walked down Willis St, I spotted the atrium of the Majestic Centre. This is the tallest building in Wellington. Though it is on a far grander scale, I can’t say I like it as much as I like the church.
Our time of innocence is ended. For a very long time, New Zealand has been blessed to be largely free of hate crimes. Yesterday, Friday 15 March, a deluded white supremacist burst into a mosque during Friday prayers. In an act of supreme cowardice, he opened fire with an automatic weapon aiming at men women and children. When he and his cowardly accomplices were done, there were 49 dead and 48 seriously wounded. Our collective heart is broken. We want no part of his so-called racial purity. He awaits trial, and I hope a very long time in prison.
I have relatively few images to offer this week, but let’s begin with this shot taken from the main street of Eastbourne on a wet and misty day. There are tracks up through the bush to the ridge, and over to Butterfly Creek. This might not have been the best day for it, but I always like misty conditions.
A day or so later, we got one of those “blue-on-blue” days, and I got lucky as one of Centreport’s bright red tugs scooted across the horizon on its way to assist a tanker about to leave the oil terminal. The red against the blue is quite striking I think
A grey day later, I was at Shelly Bay, a one-time flying boat base of the RNZAF. The city has dithered over the future of the base for as long as I can remember, and all the while, the old jetties are slowly collapsing.
Out at Pauatahanui, the works associated with the Transmission Gully motorway are becoming increasingly visible. This crane has a 400 Tonne lift capacity and is seen here placing bridge beams in place. The moody sky adds to the image.
One of the on-line photographic tutorials that I watched this week referred to magic light. It classified this as when the light picks out the subject of your image and leaves everything else in the shade. This view of downtown Wellington as seen from Lowry Bay comes close to that light.
The cruise season is almost at an end with perhaps just a few weeks more to run until next spring. Today, we had Golden Princess in port. Though I yearn for the grace of ships from an earlier era, I was impressed by the sheer grandeur of this vessel.
That’s all from me this week as I join my country in mourning the disgusting act of violence.
Restlessness is not a good sign. I find myself wanting to do something, but not sure exactly what. Perhaps it is a signal or trigger that I should change directions for a while, or do something different. Sometimes I follow the signs, and sometimes not. I can feel a change in the images I make, and to some degree, in the images I choose to show.
My week began at home, with a mild dose of cabin fever. The weather has been somewhat dismal, neither fully fair nor fully foul. Sooner or later, something snaps and I have to get out looking for images. At the beginning of the week I went as far as Waikanae, but returned empty-handed . Then just as I pulled into Block Road at the entrance to Normandale, the state of the Hutt River caught my eye. Not a masterpiece, but it rescued my trip from being a total loss. That’s the Melling Bridge just downstream. Then Mary decided we needed to spend a few days away, so we booked an Airbnb in Whanganui.
I have always loved the gentle undulating landscape between Bulls and Whanganui. These trees just North of Turakina and South of Ratana invited my attention. I really must revisit that area at dawn or sunset to catch those long shadows and distant mountains in the golden hours.
We reached Whanganui and found our quirky Airbnb accommodation in the far reaches of Castlecliff. I mean no offence when I say the Castlecliff is perhaps the last bastion of the 1950s working-class houses. Many of them have that home-constructed look, but they always assert their identity as someone’s home. Anyway, working-class or not, it is but a few minutes’ walk to a sea view that anyone would be glad to see.
The next day, Mary and I went on the two-hour return cruise up the river to Upokongaro aboard the paddle steamer Waimarie. As we were waiting for time to board, I caught the swirling exhaust and some wisps of steam from her funnel.
If you are sufficiently agile, and willing to take the risk upon yourself, the Waimarie’s engineer will let you climb down the vertical steel ladder to the engine-room floor. The chief engineer is also the stoker and cleaner and he does a superb job of keeping an evenly spread fire in the firebox. His deft flicks of the shovel scatter the coal where it most needs to be.
While we were aboard Waimarie, we discovered that there was a party of twelve Australians participating in a luxury tour of the North Island by DC3, stopping at various places for side-trips of interest. Their immediate side-trip was the Waimarie. Mine instantly switched out to the North end of Whanganui airport to enjoy a picnic lunch, and to watch their fabulous old plane depart. There was a time when they were the common-place air transport. Now the snarl of those two R1830 Twin Wasps is increasingly a memory to be treasured.
Later that night, there was another sunset. Who knew? It wasn’t as spectacular as the one the previous night, but I sat on a piece of driftwood at the North Mole and enjoyed the changing light.
The next day reminded me of Jane Morgan (1958) singing “Le jour où la pluie viendra” … or perhaps in the words of Sister Rosetta Thorpe, “Oh didn’t it rain“. Eventually it eased, and so I went wandering into Kowhai Park. All five of our kids knew and loved the park for its playground, but on this trip, I was staying in the arboretum.
Whanganui has the same graffiti and vandalism issues as most other towns. but I liked the way they approached utility cabinets, covering them with whimsical art. At the very least, it seems to discourage the mindless tagging.
As the day cleared up after its many downpours, I enjoyed the view to the North East, and knowing that if I went over to that ridge I would probably get a good view of Ruapehu.
On our last morning in the river city, I went up St John’s Hill to Virginia Lake. The water was not quite flat calm, nor yet fully ruffled. It’s a very pretty spot.
My final shot this week stirs me. I have said before that I have a passion for ships and the sea. As we were leaving Castlecliff, I noticed a side road down to the river and poked my nose in. There was a boat ramp and a view of the commercial wharf, but most interestingly, a rusting hulk on the sandbar in the middle of the stream. I asked some local boaties about its history and was told it was just some old barge of no particular significance, just dumped there to straighten the river flow. I did some searching and found that she was the Te Anau, once a proud express liner of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Ltd. She was launched in 1879, and carried passengers across the Tasman 204 at a time. She served 45 years until 1924 when she was sold to serve as a breakwater. It is amazing to me how such an old ship in such a hostile environment still keeps the form of her hull after 140 years.
Looking at the images I present this week, I wonder whether my mother was right. When exasperated with me over some stupidity or other. she would call me a scatterbrain. Certainly there seems to be little coherence among the images I collected in the week just ending. On the other hand, I tend to take each day as it comes, and each photographic opportunity as it presents itself.
While eating breakfast, I glanced out of the window and saw that the sky was on fire. I dropped my spoon and galloped to my study to grab the camera, knowing that these conditions would not last. If I had dared, I should have grabbed the tripod and made a more deliberate study. This is hand-held at 1/50 second, f8.0 ISO 400. I love the luminance of those upper clouds. And true to form, the day turned to greyness and drizzle. Carpe diem!
At Island Bay, on Wellington’s South Coast, there was a mean Southerly wind with some fairly heavy swells coming in. The ferry Aratere demonstrates how tough it was by her nose-down attitude as she powers past the coastal tanker Matuku.
When the weather outside is unhelpful, I sometimes resort to still life. In this case, a bouquet of flowers gifted to Mary in recognition of her volunteer work.
A place that is often fruitful for pictures of birds is Queen Elizabeth Park at McKay’s Crossing just North of Paekakariki. The wetlands area memorialize the presence there of the US Marines during World War II. On this occasion there was little to see, but this male paradise shelduck added some contrast to the green water.
In the adjacent pond, a family of dabchicks was cruising by. Mother and father were taking the lead and rear positions while the two juveniles stayed close together in the middle. It was interesting to see the characteristic stripes on their heads which disappear with maturity.
A few days later, on our way to Waikanae, I noticed a great cloud of steam and coal smoke as we approached the railway engine sheds at Paekakariki. Obviously, one of the big engines of Steam Inc was being fired up so we paused for me to grab a shot. By the time we got to the locomotive, the emissions had calmed down to a mere heat-haze above its smoke-stack. I was intrigued that they had hauled it just far enough out of the shed to allow the exhaust smoke to be outside. I would imagine that a considerable amount blew back inside to the discomfort of the people working on various restorations in there.
Stillness outside always suggests that I should get to some water while it lasts. Yesterday. the Pauatahanui was near perfectly still for most of the morning. I was disappointed at the apparent lack of bird life in the ponds at the preservation area, but got lucky on the Western end of the inlet where there were about ten white-faced herons browsing in the shallow water. This one flew in to join the feeding, and yes that is looking down on the bird with the water below.
The annual cruise ship season must be nearing its end in Wellington. These two delivered 3,800 passenger between them to all the eager cash-registers in the city. At least it was a pleasant day for it.
And so ends another week. Who knows what randomness the week ahead may bring.